Monday, February 12, 2018

Not our saviour

Boniface Mwangi is a talented and accomplished photojournalist. He is also a talented political activist -- his ability to shame men and women of political power is almost unparalleled. But Mr Mwangi is not a talented politician. I don't base my assessment only because he was soundly defeated by Charles Njagua Kanyi, better known as the musician Jaguar, when he stood in the last election for the Kamukunji seat in the National Assembly. I base it on the fatal mistake that guaranteed his defeat.

Mr Kanyi is nowhere near being a talented musician or politician; yet, both his jams and his political career have thrived (though, in electoral politics, six months is too short a time to measure success or failure). But he recognised an iron law of politics: unless you are a Nelson Mandela, a George Weah, a Kizza Besigye or a Raila Odinga, it is pointless to reinvent the wheel. Bar one or two anomalous ones, every single political party in sub-Saharan Africa has sang from the same song-book if not the same song-sheet: make Government more democratic; give the people more power; safeguard the people's rights; ensure the benefits of development are shared more widely; improve access to public services for the marginalised; uphold the rule of law; prudently manage public funds.

In registering the Ukweli Party, Mr Mwangi and his supporters trod a path that had been trodden before, in Kenya, by Kenneth Matiba, Mwai Kibaki, Raila Odinga, Paul Muite, Charity Ngilu, Martha Karua, Julia Ojiambo, Nazleen Umar, and Uhuru Kenyatta, among many others. In Kenya the most common political cliche is the registration of a new political party to correct the mistakes of all the political parties that came before. It is neither an original nor, in the vast majority of instances, a successful gambit as Mr Mwangi discovered (and as did also-rans like Ekuru Aukot and Mohamed Abduba Dida). If that were not bad enough, Mr Mwangi made the same promises every founder of a political party has made since 1963 with a dash of social-media-fed hubris thrown in for good measure. Mr Mwangi believed that his very public and very evocative campaign against "MPigs", his favourite sobriquet for parliamentarians, over their pay and other shenanigans was a firm foundation for a successful small-party career. He was wrong.

It is easy to start a political insurgency; it almost impossible to sustain one if you don't appreciate the situation on the ground. We have known this since 1992: new political parties are not the answer to Kenya's political crises or problems. They, sometimes, are the problem because they rarely espouse the democratic principles their founder-members spout in public. Almost all Kenyan political parties, if not all, are the personal political vehicles of heir "owners", owned and operated with the sole purpose of electing the owners to Government. As a result, while many are membership organisations when they are getting off the ground, they cease being so once an elite captures the party structures: governance bodies and fund-raising apparatus. And if a party is lucky enough to send a candidate to Parliament, he or she almost always betrays the party's rank and file, sinks his nose in the parliamentary trough and acquires airs and tastes that only a few months before he or she had railed against as being arrogance and theft. In Parliament, there are no saints.

Raila Odinga has done a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to changing the politics of Kenya and even he knew that Lone Ranger insurgencies almost always end in defeat. It is why he merged his party with Moi's Kanu in 2002 and another party with Mwai Kibaki's DP, with others, to form the National Rainbow Coalition. It is why he teamed up with Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and Uhuru Kenyatta in 2005 to form the Orange Democratic Movement that defeated the Wako draft constitution. And it is why he had no problem being part of the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy in 2013 or the National Super Alliance in 2017. Only once has his coalition building been a success; but just because he has not been elected president yet doesn't mean that he has failed. Indeed, Mr Odinga is the single most important political subject in Kenya today, obsessed over by supporters and rivals, friends and enemies alike. In the Government, Mr Odinga has stamped his imprimatur; Mr Mwangi, on the other hand, will probably merit only a footnote but not much more.

Mr Mwangi and the Ukweli Party, the hubris of the party name notwithstanding, don't have a monopoly on the truth or political good intentions. Therefore, they are not the only saviours of Kenya waiting in the wings. If he is incapable of joining or building a coalition with existing political parties, in which he must swallow his pride and work with some MPigs, Mr Mwangi will never set foot inside the august chamber of the National Assembly and if he does, one of two things will happen: his will be an acrimoniously short stay or he will bury his nose in the same trough just like the other MPigs. What will not happen is that he will not reform the National Assembly and he will not save Kenya.

Excuses

The Washington Post, in its banner, declare that "democracy dies in darkness". How cute. The modern history of the world, with its nations, theocracies and monarchies, has been one in which the people invited the end of democracy and the birth of dictatorship, among other illiberal forms of government. It is why it is amusing to see the largely ineffectual freakout among Kenya's chattering classes over the events of the past month. Everyone and his cat (well, everyone that is not a card-carrying member of the Jubilation) is suddenly an expert on "media" freedom, citizenship, "dual" citizenship, "high" treason, due process, "court orders", habeas corpus, freedom of assembly and of movement, public international law, the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, et cetera, and all because Raila Odinga took an oath to serve as the "people's" president.

Constitutional rights and freedoms, no matter how much we repeat that they are not granted by the State, are meaningless if the constitutional norms that underpin their enjoyment and protection are ignored by the majority of the people. We may have a good constitution in our hands; whether we are good constitutionalists remains (to my mind) highly contested. I am constantly surprised at the extent many of us will go to repudiate constitutional principles if it will stymie our rivals' plans and promote ours.

For instance, Article 27 (1) declares grandiosely that every person is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law. This constitutional right is meaningless if we do not apply the principle of the rule of law, wherein parties to a dispute are treated in the same way by the courts and where the orders, decrees and judgments of the courts are obeyed without question. In Kenya, Article 27 (1) is mocked every day that the courts treat the wealthy differently than they treat the poor; where the courts almost always defer to State agents and turn a deaf ear to private parties; where the State privileges the comfort and safety of State officers while leaving private citizens to fend for themselves; and where some parties enjoy the luxury, nay right, to ignore unfavourable court orders without facing any sanction from any quarter.

That we, "the people", have largely accepted this state of affairs, by using violations of the principle as cudgels to batter our rivals while ignoring our own violations, is proven by how the recent violations of the principle have elicited yowls of protest from Oppositionists, shrugged shoulders from Jubilationists and a cast-iron guarantee that State officials like the Cabinet Secretary for the Interior, the Inspector-General of Police, the Director of Immigration and the Attorney-General will not be answering difficult questions about court orders from judges or magistrates any time soon.

We, "the people", have done nothing to disabuse these people as to the folly of watering down the meaning and import of constitutional norms. Instead, we spend more time arguing about absolutely stupid ideas like "benevolent dictatorship". Democracies don't die in darkness. They die in the full light of day when people find excuse after excuse to not do the hard work of building, nourishing, sustaining, deepening and defending a democracy. In Kenya, we have heard all the excuses: we are too poor; we were not ready for Uhuru; it is the fault of the colonial government; tribalism is to blame; neoliberal policies have destroyed social safety nets; terrorism is an existential step and we must deal with it first; we are too corrupt. 

Dozens more excuses have been made save the one that truly matters: while we have written and amended constitutions and laws, build and destroyed public institutions, and elected and deposed governments, we have not inculcated constitutionalism in the fabric of public life. Instead, we have favoured cults of personality based on class wealth, tribal superiority complexes and the instant gratification that political and economic corruption engenders for an elite few. Worse still we have no interest in inculcating constitutionalism in the fabric of public live. It's too hard; it's too expensive; we are not ready; we are too corrupt. After fifty-five years, we have become adept at making excuses.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Long and vengeful memories

Interesting to see that no matter what progress we make, there will always be critics. City cleaning by = Why isn’t it being done by NCC staff (who have already shown you they cannot handle the task)?; Digital transformation of Nairobi = Way to steal collections; -- Polycarp Igathe, Deputy Governor of Nairobi City County
The Green City in the Sun, as Nairobi City was once known, is a pale shadow of its former self, not that its former self was something to write home about. City Fathers have always had plans on how to turn this city into a "world class" city. Those plans never seem to come to fruition. And in the Age of Devolution, those plans have left a bitter aftertaste. Le Kidero promised us a transport system to rival Berlin's; he delivered more chaos and dysfunction. His Sonkoness had a one-hundred-days plan that has been quietly shelved. And now his deputy, Mr Igathe, sees fit to argue that legitimate questions about public services by the county government are illegitimate.

Le Kidero's failures were the reason why Nairobi's voters chose Messrs Sonko and Igathe. Few believed their promises but many hoped that they would manage the city in a way that delivered results that benefit the city's residents. It is becoming increasingly certain that the duo knows little about running a county government and that they are becoming adept at PR like their neighbour in Machakos county. Their social media blitz is designed to shut down any legitimate criticism of their performance and to obscure the fact that both are out of their depth in running a large and complex entity like a county government.

We will judge them on the provision of basic services such as public sanitation, water and sewerage, and public transport. So far, they have demonstrated a complete and utter lack of appreciation of the dire state of affairs, carrying on with the failed policies of Le Kidero and his predecessors in City Hall. Even if the 2017 drought hadn't reduced the amount of water available in the dams that supply water to the city, the new county government has done precious little to ensure that services are improved. Water rationing is now part and parcel of their legacy, and the fact that water vendors, large and small, are thriving is an indictment of His Sonkoness's and Mr Igathe's inability to protect the interests of the residents of the city.

But Mr Igathe's petulance regarding the status of the Sonko Rescue Team, hashtag and all, raises suspicions that not even he understands why the "charitable organisation" is performing functions that should be performed by the county government. When His Sonkoness was a senator and gubernatorial candidate, the Sonko Rescue Team was an excellent political cudgel when wielded against Le Kidero and his incompetent government. His Sonkoness is now the governor of Nairobi City County and he must work within the law. The status of the Sonko Rescue Team in the provision of public services must be clarified.

The doubts surrounding the Sonko Rescue Team and what they are authorised to do go to the heart of transparency in the management of county affairs. We do not know if the young people in the Sonko Rescue Team are county employees or whether they contractors. We do not know if public funds have been appropriated to pay for their services. We do not know whether or not they are to be held accountable for damage caused to public or private property or whether the blame should fall on the county government. Mr Igathe's petulance is probably intended to hide the truth regarding the Sonko Rescue Team. We may never know the truth if this how the county government intends to respond to questions regarding service delivery or the expenditure of public funds. What His Sonkoness and his deputy forget is that the same scythe that shortened Le Kidero's political life will also be wielded against the duo if they carry on in this petulant vein. Five years is not an eternity and Nairobians have very long and vengeful memories.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Reform-proof attitudes

I may be wrong, but even in Kenya the police surely must undergo some form of training to know when and how to use deadly force. It is thereason why the Kenya Police Service has Kiganjo and the Administration Police Service has Manyani. Lord knows where the General Service Unit undergoes firearms training, but I am assuming the same basic instruction will cover the hows and wherefores of the use of deadly force.

What I cannot be sure of is whether the so-called police reforms recommended in the Ransley Report took into account the reason for the existence of the National Police Service: national security. The Constitution defines "national security" as,
"the protection against internal and external threats to Kenya’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, its people, their rights, freedoms, property, peace, stability and prosperity, and other national interests."
Despite the constitutional definition of "national security", which applies to the national security organs established in Article 239 (1) including the National Police Service, the principal reason for the existence of the police is the preservation of the power, authority, prestige and dignity of the national Executive as personified in the President. In the Service's mind, anything that threatens the power, authority, prestige or dignity of the President is a treasonous crime, and anyone who commits that crime is guilty of treason and anyone who offers the traitor any assistance whatsoever deserves the same fate.

The National Police Service very rarely sees its principal duty as the safety of the people or their property. Indeed, one of the signs that it considers the people as the enemy or potential enemies or fifth columnists hell-bent on aiding in the commission of treasonous acts by the enemies of the President is the hyper-militarisation of public spaces: the police occupy these spaces as it were an military occupying force in enemy territory. It is why policemen are always armed with assault rifles and situate armed personnel carriers at key choke-points in public spaces, especially urban areas.

Because of its character and guiding philosophy, it is almost certain that the policeman who shot dead Geoffrey Mutinda will ever be known or held to account for his or her actions. The late Master Mutinda was a casualty of a policy that treats any possible embarassment of the Commander-in-Chief as a national security crisis to which the only rational response is overwhelming and deadly force. Master Mutinda was killed because he lived in an area whose residents had allowed to be used by traitors who intended to embarass the President on the day he was to take his oath of office. This could not stand. And when less effective messages were ignored by the President's enemies (senior officials in the county government arranged for lorry-loads of garbage and sewerage to be dumped in the venue), there was no choice but to put down the treasonous insurrection with deadly force if needed. The President's enemies would not back down. The use of live ammunition was inevitable. Master Mutinda's tragic death was all but certain.

How the police reacted afterwards is instructive. A senior member of the National Police Service declared that the police is "the authority that enforces the law", implying that it is the police to decide what the law means, including when it is fit and proper to enter any area under force of arms and deploy deadly force to deal with a threat to peace and [national] security. Since the general election of the 26th August and the second inaugural of the President on the 28th December, the number of Kenyans who have been killed by the police as it attempted to crash all attempts at embarassing the President have only exposed the National Police Service as a handmaiden to a philosophy that has defied all reform. We have issued them with new insignia, uniforms and titles but policemen retain the same attitudes they did before the promulgation of the Constitution in August 2010 and no constitutional definition of the Service's mandates will change the situation unless the reason for its existence changes.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Amateurs!

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.
It's an old joke but in it is a lesson that we all eventually come to learn, some the hard way and some not so hard. There are many young people who watch the effortlessness with which TV characters solve problems and achieve their wildest dreams, from attractive spouses to unimaginable riches , and who delude themselves that it is possible to simply come into the skills witnessed on TV without hard work. Practice is something they stopped doing when they finished secondary school because, as I have been reassured by many, "degree ni mchango".

I may never find out what motivated university students to hatch a plan to rob a bank and I will not subscribe to the self-serving cop-out by one of the thieves' father that his son robbed the bank because society has normalised theft. I, however, have an explanation of why the thieves were caught: this is not what they did for a living. They were mere amateurs, unpracticed in bank robberies and getting away with the crime.

It is only normal for "right-thinking" Kenyans to have a dim view of the "criminal underclass".  After all, they have rejected the norms of honest living, hard work and communal trust for the high risk, high reward world of crime. Every day amateur criminals are arraigned before magistrates, having tripped up on their way to cashing in on their ill-gotten gains. A basic truth often escapes them: to successfully live a life paid for by the proceeds of crime, practice makes perfect.

It matters not whether the crime is bank robbery, purse-snatching, chicken theft or fraud - practice, practice, practice and you will make it to the Carnegie Hall of a successful life of crime. Our intrepid bank robbers came up with a caper that captured the imagination, an echo of successful TV bank robberies involving tunnels and unsuspecting coppers. It turns out that this was the easy part. The hard part was getting away with the crime; fifty million shillings might be a piddly sum for many successful fraudsters in Kenya, but for young university boys, it is a headache that almost always develops into an unmanageable migraine. It is probably only after they had the money at hand that it occurred to them that disappearing fifty million shillings is not easy. This is where the "practice" part would have come in handy.

Knowing who to deal with when "washing" fifty million is not information that is offered on street corners and dimly lit bars. Only the known members of the criminal underclass have access to this kind of information and you only become a member of the criminal underclass by having proven yourself time and again by doing what criminals do: rob, cheat, steal. It would help that you have been a guest of the Government on at least one occasion to build up your rep as a proper criminal. We all now, but cannot prove, that there is a vast network that is capable of turning fifty stolen millions into untraceable assets and the only people who have access to it do not include ambitious university students with a plan.

Of course, a simple question should have occurred to them to ask: why had no one before them pulled off such a caper? They were not the first ones to have come up with the brilliant idea of tunnelling into a bank vault in Kenya. There is a reason why in Kenya the preferred mode of taking banks' monies almost always were either inside jobs involving bank tellers and their managers or violent assaults on cash-in-transit convoys that almost never ended in death or bloodshed. Kenya's criminals are not fools: the one-third of the national budget that goes missing every year should tell you that it is not to be trifled with. So there is a reason why banks haven't had their safes tunnelled into from the outside. That they probably didn't ask this question almost guarantees that they will be convicted and sent to prison. Amateurs!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Democracy for teenagers

I watched an ODM speaker of a county assembly and a Jubilee member for a Rift Valley constituency appear on a TV current affairs show in which they were giving their honest views about the National Resistance Movement's "people's assemblies". It was clear that they had entrenched positions: the ODM guy, a lawyer, could cite, chapter and verse, the provisions of law that gave legitimacy to the NRM scheme while the Jubilee hardliner, a former parastatal CEO, couldn't understand what miraculous constitutional interpretation that permitted such an abomination to be contemplated by otherwise intelligent people. What was painfully clear to viewers was that both held each other in utter contempt. The ODM guy couldn't believe he had to discuss serious matters of law and constitutional interpretation with a man he was sure had the intellectual heft of a loaf of bread. The Jubilee hothead couldn't understand how a county speaker in a backwater county who looked as if he was starving thought he was his peer, a member of the National Assembly and a leading light of the ruling alliance. They spoke past each other and at each other that it is almost certain that this is how the next year will be. Clearly, this is democracy for teenagers.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Political magnanimity is the only way

Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka were on the ballot on the 26th October, 2017 when the fresh election ordered by the Supreme Court on the 1st September was conducted by the electoral commission. Mr Odinga had announced that he would not participate in the election and neither he nor his running mate campaigned at all for the fresh election. The day after the fresh election, Mr Odinga announced the formation of the National Resistance Movement, NRM, and urged his followers and supporters to boycott companies and their products because of their association with the Jubilee government, its members, supporters and followers.

Between the invalidation of the presidential election on the 1st September and the dismissal of two petitions challenging the result of the fresh election on the 20th November, much blood has been spilt in Kenya. The victims have been the poor and the perpetrators have mostly been policemen. Incendiary language by members and supporters of the Jubilee Party as well as of the NRM have heightened tensions, with the latter accusing the former of using national security organs to entrench "dictatorship" in Kenya and the former accusing the latter of undermining the peace, unity, stability and security of the nation.

Meanwhile, though Government has settled matters with Kenya's nurses who were on strike for almost half a year, university staff are still on strike on account that their dues, hard won after a previous strike, have not been settled by Government. No one knows when the strike will end and whether the lecturers' demands will be met; after all, Government spent an additional unanticipated twelve billion shillings on the fresh elections, money that was raised by drastically reducing allocations to all public institutions. Increased taxes loom menacingly over the horizon because of this.

What is clear, though, is that there are those who will take advantage of the fraught politics of the country to advance their own agendas. Like a senior member of the Jubilee Party who has fervently, and hysterically, advanced the proposal for "benevolent dictatorship", in which the wise and enlightened president will eschew the finer points of the Bill of Rights -- because democracy is a stumbling block -- in order to accelerate our economic development along the model pioneered by the Asian Tigers. He isn't so much interested in development per se so much as the violent suppression of men and women who have refused to bow down to the inimitable logic of the superiority of one ethnic community over all others.

Among the members of the NRM, a self-styled "general" has emerged as a vocal voice of the NRM cause. It isn't lost on keen observers that the bombastic and uncouth bully is a failed politician who had a spectacular falling out with Mr Odinga. His rudeness and oftentimes misogyny rubs even people who would agree with him on political issues the wrong way. During the run-up to the 8th August election, he had nothing but unflattering things to say about Raila Odinga and all who surrounded him deeming them as corrupt among other unproven allegations. His dwindling political fortunes have proven to be his Damascene conversion to all causes dear to Mr Odinga's heart.

We are confronted by a Jubilee government that enjoys unparalleled advantages: it enjoys a majority in both Houses of Parliament and controls a majority of Governor's offices and county assemblies. If its previous behaviour during the life of the Eleventh Parliament is anything to go by, little inspires confidence that its tyranny of numbers will be used for the national good. It is almost certain that the national debt will continue to careen out of control, the misuse and abuse of national security organs will become more brazen and more and more public servants will down their tools in frustration. "Business as usual" will bring us nothing but grief.

No one expects magnanimity from the Jubilee's electoral winners but it is sorely called for. The first step is to acknowledge that the NRM has genuine grievances and that Raila Odinga is the NRM's unchallenged leader. For sure minnows like the Third Way Alliance have a stake in the political arena, but it is foolhardy to build them up as some sort of alternative to the political constituency commanded by the NRM. The only way out of this political morass are negotiations between the ruling alliance and the NRM, while taking into account all the outstanding political questions of the past fifteen years, including the recommendations of the TJRC report and the Ndung'u report. We have kicked the can of political myopia long enough down the road. It is time to settle our political problems once and for all.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Zeke is not an outlier

I don't know who had the great idea of Punk'ng Ezekiel Mutua, the major domo (pun very much intended, my Swahili-speaking friend) of the Kenya Film Classification Board, but they are geniuses and their bosses should give them a massive raise.

This past week, at the ungodly hour of 4:00 a.m. and perusing the still-at-140-characters of Twitter, I stumbled upon a Nairobi News link to a YouTube audio with our favourite Christian-censor-warrior-in-chief. Someone had the good sense to ask him what he thought of the gay lions in the Mara. As I understand it, some mzungu tourist doing his tourist-y thing saw two, full-mane lions, doing the nasty and decided to commit the event to digital memory. Needless to say, the pictures have gone viral. Then someone -- seriously, Nairobi News, that person needs a massive raise -- decided to call Good Ol' Zeke and seek his, uhmmm, opinion on the matter.

Of course Zeke wasn't diving head first into the whys and wherefores without confirming a few things. He needed to see the lions' "bio" to confirm that, indeed, they were lions and not overly hirsute lionesses. He was also quick enough to remind his interlocutor that "we don't regulate lions" but the "conduct of human beings" according to law. Then he suggested that some research was needed into the "phenomenon". Then he got into the substance of it all -- "on a lighter note", as he put it.

He found the actions of the lions "bizarre, totally bizarre" and "it is not normal". He declared with seeming zoological authority, I might add, that "the very nature of intimacy, even among animals, is between male and female". He suggested that the lions "ideally, they should be isolated" because "that is a phenomenon for scientific study". He reminded his interlocutor that he has "always argued that homosexuality has some demonic force behind it" and "demons even inhabit animals". In his very strong belief, the lions "are demon-possessed" and that the "demonic spirit inflicting humanity seems to have caught up with animals".

His advice was that we should "isolate the crazy gay animals, study their behaviour, they might require counselling, it could be something that we can arrest because it is not even normal among animals" because "very idea of sex, even among animals, is for procreation". He argued that "we have normalised abnormal behaviours to the extent that even animals are aping" completely missing the irony of using "aping" in this context. On being questioned how the lions would be counselled, Ol' Zeke had the perfect zinger: "probably they have been influenced by the gays who have been going to the game reserves or to the national park and behaving badly! Male and male, in the bush" completely missing the innuendo inherent in "in the bush".

Other than the Standard Three language (and reasoning) by Ol' Zeke, it is interesting to see how resilient long-discarded notions of homosexuality are in Kenya and how much sway they hold over senior public officers. In his mind, there are only two possibilities to gay lions: demon-possession or men behaving badly in the bush in sight of lions. These are his sincerely-held beliefs. Facts -- scientific facts -- are not as persuasive as these beliefs. If you are not horrified at the intellectual rigour that our censor-in-chief brings to public discourse and, it is presumed, public administration, then you don't know how scared you should be. It is time you started paying attention to these things because Ol' Zeke, funny as he is, is not an outlier. He has many senior colleagues. Some of them carry firearms.

The inadequate band-aid

What happens if everyone seeks a private solution to public problems? --
It is the year 2017, Current Era, and there is a wave that threatens to wash over the addle-minded enamoured of the intoxicating whiff of autocracy with their morning coffee or whatever it is the residents of Uthamakistan drink in the morning. This wave is known as critical thinking and I shall attempt to employ it as I take a stab at answering @Gladwellotieno's question.

We are reminded, usually in the form of a joke, that there are two things that are certain in life: death and taxes. Of the former there is no escape; of the latter, evasion invites (in normal states) the unremittingly unforgiving attention of the State. Taxes are the means of dealing with all manner of public policy issues; without the revenues raised by taxes, doctors and nurses will not be paid, and their patients will suffer. Many will probably die. A few patients, at least those with the wherewithal, will engage the services of private healthcare providers and probably escape suffering and death. That, in a microcosm, is a private solution to a very public problem. It is one that millions of Kenyans are familiar with for in the past one year, both doctors and nurses employed in the public service have gone on strike, patients have suffered, many patients have died, and a few have survived because they could afford private healthcare services.

However, what seemed to be a solution was only half that. The unseen ripples of the pebble thrown into the still, healthcare pool will continue for a long time, years perhaps. In the over 160 days of the nurses' strike, childhood immunisation was not done for hundreds of thousands of children, tubercular patients did not have their medicines administered to them, hundreds of cancer patients were forced to dig even deeper into their savings to access private oncology services, and so on.

What will be immediately apparent is that while suffering Kenyans had no choice but to pay their taxes lest they invited the attentions of the taxman, the services those taxes were supposed to fund were not provided and so they were forced to spend what little they had saved on privately-provided services. Family incomes have been decimated. Local economies have been stunted. Mini-epidemics are certainly on their way. Misery has been visited on families. Private solutions to public problems are no solutions at all. They are band-aids on involuntary amputations, that is, wholly and utterly inadequate.

Mr Sonko's colours

Sometimes it pays to re-state the obvious: Mike Sonko is a politician of rare talent. What he is not, and probably never will be is a statesman or political leader of great talent. I don't mean that he will not find future electoral success; given his remarkable political career since he won the Makadara by-election, Mr Sonko will probably continue to surprise and confound his detractors for the foreseeable future. The manner he has governed the Capital City, though, shows you the limits of one-note political talents, such as his for winning elections against all odds.

It only needs to rain for a few minutes for Mr Sonko's leadership deficit to be revealed. That the low hanging fruits of city leadership have so far escaped his grasp should worry his constituents, backers and fans. That he has attempted to cover this deficit by robustly and rambunctiously taking on political rivals as far afield as Migori shouldn't surprise us; where Donald Trump leads, Mr Sonko is likely to follow. Even his "partnership" with Polycarp Igathe, his supposed technocratic deputy with a firm grasp of business management techniques, will not hide the fact that in basic city leadership, the second Nairobi City county government has failed and continues to fail its residents.

Drains remain clogged more than a week after the rains started. Pavements in the unfashionable parts of the CBD are still held hostage by hundreds of "hawkers", while others are muddy tracks that force pedestrians onto the roads. Roads, for the most part, remain unmarked, making them high-risk environments at night when it is raining. Water and sanitation services by the Nairobi water company, wholly owned by the county government, are inadequate, to say the least: many residential areas must make do with rationed supplies and other do without. Public transport remains chaotic, at best, leading to lost man-hours occasioned by the traffic jams caused by matatu crews. And despite Mr Sonko's social media blitz on his war against garbage, a casual stroll through the unseen parts east of Moi Avenue quickly disabuses one of the scale of his success: Mfangano Lane, Ukwala Lane and dozens of similar alleys are spectacularly filthy.

Good leaders know how to organise their workforces to achieve specific goals. Great ones know how to inspire their stakeholders to aim for the seemingly unattainable. Mr Sonko is neither good no great. His City Hall remains disorganised: the never-ending combats between his inspectorate and "hawkers", that almost always leads to injuries, loss or destruction of private and public property reminds us that organisational discipline is not Mr Sonko's strong suite. The same excuses that millions of US citizens made to persuade themselves that Donald Trump would "grow into the job" are the same ones we made about Mr Sonko. The fact that he could be referred to as "Mr Sonko" should have been a clue that sometimes we should judge books by their garishly flamboyant colours.

Kenyans are not morons

No one is neutral and if they say they are, well, I have a bridge in London you might want to buy. One of the most important relationships in Kenyan politics has been between Kenyan businessmen and the ruling party, its senior-most officials and its senior-most representatives in Government. This relationship has been a fact of life since the Queen of England granted the Imperial British East Africa Company a charter to operate in East Africa. The lowering of the Union Jack in 1963 did not alter one iota of this relationship. Kenyan (and sometimes foreign) businesses and Government are intertwined like the tendril-like formations of mangroves' root systems. The Kenya Private Sector Alliance's declaration that it is independent and neutral is a facile attempt to pull at our patriotic heartstrings in order to frustrate the National Super Alliance's calls for boycotts of companies associated with the ruling alliance. It will persuade very few Kenyans because Kenyans are not morons. Whether the boycotts work will depend on how many Kenyans think that it is worth the fight. That number is not as large as Nasa seems to think nor as small as the Jubilation dismisses it as. But what Kepsa has done has only added fuel to the fire. It might live to regret its "press statement".